Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Oakland – Although media coverage of the event has been scarce, prisoners in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) at Corcoran State Prison continue a hunger strike that has lasted over a month. In a statement released in late December, representatives of the strikers listed 11 demands that include access to educational and rehabilitative programming, adequate and timely medical care, and timely hearings on their cases and petitions. As of February 9, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), disclosed that 30 men were still striking and a representative in the office said that prisoners had been intermittently striking for the last month. Unlike the California prisoner hunger strikes of July and September, little attention has been given to the ongoing strike at Corcoran.
Family members and advocates fear strikers may be experiencing serious medical issues and even death. A prisoner at Corcoran, who remains unnamed due to fear of reprisal, stated in a letter received on February 5th, “On or about February 2nd or 3rd, 2012, an inmate has passed away due to not eating that has been going on over here in Corcoran ASU. Inmates are passing out and having other medical problems and it seems that this is not being taken seriously. There will be more casualties if this isn’t addressed or brought to light.”
While this death is unconfirmed, it raises concerns that the CDCR is failing to deal with this hunger strike in an appropriate manner. “The prisoners are making very reasonable and legitimate demands regarding basic human rights,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer working on behalf of some hunger strikers in California, “For those of us on the outside, the slow pace of reform is frustrating. For those people enduring barbarous conditions, the lack of meaningful improvement is unbearable.”
The demands of the Corcoran strikers are somewhat different than those of the strikes sparked in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) this past summer and fall, which at one point included 12,000 prisoners in 13 prisons across California. Administrative Segregation Units are often used as holding places for prisoners in route to SHU facilities, or who are waiting release back into general population. Many prisoners in the various ASUs in California have been validated as gang members by CDCR and languish, sometimes for years, awaiting transfer to facilities such as Pelican Bay, where some prisoners have spent more than 20 years in solitary confinement.
Following the September hunger strike and significant pressure from the public and legislators in Sacramento, the CDCR announced that it would make changes to its gang validation procedure and would release a draft for review by stakeholders sometime in January. “The CDCR is clearly behind on their timeline. Meanwhile, prisoners continue to be validated largely due to association and baseless allegations effectively dooming them to indefinite SHU sentences without any means of challenging their cases,” says Azadeh Zohrabi, of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition . The stakeholders’ review will reportedly involve the California Correctional and Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), state legislators and prison advocates.
Lawyers, families, and advocates will continue to monitor the situation at Corcoran. For updates and further information please visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.